TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
Special birds recorded
Endangered or special conservation significance:
Royal (Macaroni) Penguin (vagrant to Australia)
Rare and vulnerable species:
Tuesday 13 March - Melbourne/Hobart to Eaglehawk Neck
Richard at the airport for the flight to Hobart - met Sheila and Anne in the departure lounge. Anne looking bright considering she had come straight through from London. In Hobart joined up with Malcolm and Meredith to complete the group - Malcolm unfortunately with a bad throat.
We drove along the coast to Dodge's Ferry and the Forestier Peninsula, with a picnic lunch by the beach.
Then on to the Tasman Peninsula and a look at Eagleneck Harbour where the strong wind was whipping up a big sea. Not looking good for the pelagic tomorrow! Along the way saw Pacific and Kelp Gulls, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Green Rosella, Scarlet Robin. Yellow Wattlebird and Swamp Harrier.
Overnight at a motel in Eaglehawk Neck, with dinner by a picture window overlooking the beach. Fingers crossed for the weather tomorrow.
Wednesday 14 March - Pelagic from Eaglehawk Neck - on to Bruny Island via Hobart
A miracle. The wind has died away to a very light breeze. We met Tim Reid at the harbour, then off on the Pauletta for a day of seabirding. Moderately good birding, with the highlight being 5 albatross species. Anne did a lot of sleeping! Back in harbour at 3pm for the drive to Bruny Island, with Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers along the way. Took the 5pm ferry to the island, where we enjoyed the magnificent island scenery as we drove to meet Tonia Cochran at Inala. Dinner of a big seafood platter with cake and fruit.
Thursday 15 March - Around Bruny Island
A perfect day! Warm, sunny and calm. A walk around the cottage before breakfast. Brief views of Forty-spotted Pardalote, but LOTS of other birds, including Black-headed and Strong-billed Honeyeaters, Yellow Wattlebird and Grey Shrike-thrush. After breakfast we spent the morning with Tonia around her property. Good views of Olive Whistler, Dusky Robin and Golden Whistler.
After lunch we were off to Adventure Bay to find the Royal Penguin reported on the grape-vine. A two kilometre walk, and Sheila located the bird on the south-west shore of Penguin Island. Great views through the scope from the opposite headland! Then on to the Camel Farm for Flame and Scarlet Robins and White-fronted Chat.
A pleasant dinner in the quirky Hothouse Restaurant with sweeping views over The Neck as the sun set. A visit to the Little Penguin colony yielded views of two birds (now at the end of the breeding season). Large numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters coming in to their colony at last light. Then back to Inala, with views of several Brush-tailed Possums along the way.
Friday 16 March - Bruny Island to New Norfolk via Mount Wellington and Hobart
Another beautiful day. After breakfast we departed Inala at around 9am. The rainforest of the Mavista Nature Walk gave great birding - Scrubtit, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Pink Robin and Bassian Thrush. The walk was much enjoyed by all. Lunch at the nearby picnic area, and then on to McCracken's Gully. We had only just arrived when we had a Forty-spotted Pardalote in the scope - where it sat for 15 minutes! We also saw Striated and Spotted Pardalotes and Black-headed Honeyeaters at the same spot.
Then we took the ferry back to the mainland, and the drive up Mount Wellington, with a break for refreshments at The Springs. Cool at the top, but great visibility. A drive to New Norfolk and an excellent salmon meal in gracious style at Rosie's Inn. A beautiful selection of fresh fruit and island cheeses to follow, with Richard taking more than his share of chocolates!
Saturday 17 March - Exploring the South-west Wilderness and Strathgordon
Today we are off into the wilderness - with a first stop at Mount Field National Park. This is one of Tasmania's alpine areas, and we start with a walk through dripping, mossy forest on the 'Lyrebird Walk'. No lyrebirds, but good views of Pink Robin, and of a Bassian Thrush sitting for a while on a log.
The weather is not so good today - occasional rain and low cloud. Up amongst the alpine tops we took a fascinating botanical walk with heath species such as Pandani and Deciduous Beech. Then, at the end of the road, a short walk around Lake Fenton. Driving back to lower altitudes the group headed on to the Tall Trees Walk. Richard took the vehicle back to the picnic area while the group walked down the track to meet him.
After lunch we headed west into the real wilderness, and the Creepy Crawly Walk in heavy drizzle. A look at the Gordon Dam at the end of the road in strong wind and driving rain. We were glad to get back to the comfort, good food and hospitality of Rosie's Inn.
Sunday 18 March - Hobart to Melbourne and Werribee Sewage Works
After breakfast it was off to the airport for the flight to Melbourne. We arrived just after 11am and headed off to Werribee to check into our hotel and have lunch. Then it was straight off to the nearby sewage works. This vast area of ponds treats most of Melbourne's effluent. We saw every imaginable duck (except Freckled) in huge numbers - also Black-winged Stilt and Red-necked Avocet. We scoped everything for quite a while, then went on to the wetlands along Little River. Here we had Australian Pelican, Pied Cormorant and Golden-headed Cisticola. At the mouth of the river were large numbers of Curlew Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints, and a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. We watched them actively feeding on the falling tide for a while. Then back to our motel, and dinner at the RSL - Sheila almost won on the pokies!
Monday 19 March - Werribee to Apollo Bay via the Great Ocean Road
Back to the sewage works after breakfast to try some new areas. New species were Red-capped and Double-banded Plovers. More Pink-eared Ducks than I have ever seen anywhere - several thousand.
We started down the Great Ocean Road, with lunch at Bell's Beach. We stopped at a roadside flora reserve and had some excellent birding - Buff-rumped, Brown and Striated Thornbill, Mistletoebird, Rufous and Golden Whistler. Highlight later on was a Rufous Bristlebird near Airey's Inlet - close to the edge of the road. Then a couple of Gang-gang Cockatoos flew past near Lorne. A pleasant motel at Apollo Bay, with an excellent meal at Buff's Bistro.
Tuesday 20 March - Apollo Bay to the Grampians via the Great Ocean Road and Tower Hill
A great day for weather - fine, sunny and warm with a light breeze. Perfect conditions to enjoy the scenic coastal drive. We stopped at Waite's Rest Rainforest Walk for half an hour, and found Eastern Yellow Robin, White-browed Scrubwren and Yellow-faced and White-naped Honeyeaters plus some great forest. At the Twelve Apostles conditions were magnificent - although only Meredith and I saw the Rufous Bristlebird we all came to see. On to Warrnambool and Tower Hill, where we had lunch, and were hassled by inquisitive Emus. At a water point there were great views of honeyeaters and Red-browed Finch having a bath.
Driving north we entered the Grampians, and enjoyed the mountain scenery as we drove up a long valley to Halls Gap. We stooped for good birding at Jimmy's Creek along the way, including Scarlet Robin for Anne. At Halls Gap the air was filled with the cries of the Long-billed Corellas - we had soon had enough of them! A great meal at the Kookaburra Restaurant, but the rain seems to be setting in again!
Wednesday 21 March - Around the Grampians
Today it rained and rained and rained. We delayed our start until 9.30am, then headed to Lake Fyans. We did see White-winged Chough and Great-crested Grebe, but conditions were miserable. After lunch things started to improve as we walked down Delley's Dell. By the time we arrived at Lakeview Lookout there was blue sky showing - and Gang-gang Cockatoo and Eastern Spinebill cheered us up. When we arrived back at Halls Gap we had excellent views of Common Bronzewing along the main street. We had been looking for it all day! Meredith tried to check her e-mails at the newsagent, but the machine invoked anti-pornography censorship and closed down. Something to do with a message about horse studs! We had dinner at the Rosea Café, with hopes for better weather tomorrow.
Thursday 22 March - Grampians to Little Desert
Our hopes for a fine start to the day were dashed. Drizzle and mist as we headed over the mountains towards Horsham. We made stops at McKenzie's Falls and Zumsteins along the way, with nothing special in the way of birds. We next made a stop near the boundary of the Grampians National Park, and had some really great birding. The eucalypts were flowering, and we saw Rainbow Lorikeet, Brown-headed, Yellow-tufted, White-plumed and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Red Wattlebird, and Eastern Spinebill.
Then it was on to Little Desert National Park for lunch. At the picnic area a small puddle gave us White-browed Babbler, Brown-headed and White-plumed Honeyeaters and Red-rumped Parrot, while a Southern Scrub-robin called nearby. As we headed to Little Desert Lodge the weather was definitely clearing, and it was fine and sunny by evening.
Friday 23 March - Around Little Desert National Park
This was the day we spent with the indefatigable Whimpey. A walk before breakfast yielded great views of a Southern Scrub-robin singing in a tree. Then Richard 'lost' his telescope and nearly missed breakfast. In Whimpey's sanctuary we searched for Malleefowl, at first without success. At the second mound he came up trumps - two birds in attendance! Lots of close-up photography ensued. Whimpey also found us Purple-gaped Honeyeater, Shy Heathwren and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater. Before dinner we enjoyed Whimpey's Malleefowl videos, then went spotlighting, with fantastic views of a Southern Boobook.
Saturday 24 March
A drizzly start to the day as we left Little Desert Lodge and headed east. Soon the rain was really heavy, but eased off as we approached Terrick Terrick National Park. He we had an excellent afternoon of birding - with Gilbert's Whistler, Diamond Firetail, Red-capped Robin, Southern Whiteface, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Brown Treecreeper and Red-rumped Parrot. Highlight was the Black-eared Cuckoo seen by Sheila and Richard. A visit to the eccentric Vivienne's Gallery for afternoon tea, by which time the weather had become fine and sunny. We stayed overnight in the historic Steampacket Inn, right in the old port of Echuca. A substantial dinner was enjoyed by all.
Sunday 25 March - With Phil Maher around Deniliquin, and the Plainswanderer search
We joined Phil at Mathoura on a day promising to be fine and warm. A shout from Malcolm, and we were looking at a Peregrine Falcon - with good scope views. Fantastic birding in the morning in the riverine forest along the Murray - Hooded Robin, Varied Sittella, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Red-capped Robin, Australian Hobby and Azure Kingfisher. Then on to our motel in Deniliquin for lunch, and to prepare for the night's adventures.
A stop in acacia woodland on the road to Hay yielded a great prize - excellent views of the very rare Painted Honeyeater + the elusive Striped Honeyeater. Also a good look at Mistletoebird and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater. Then it was on to the spot where we hope to find the Plainswanderer after dark, with the real bonus of 6 Banded Lapwings nearby.
As the sun set over the plains we organised a picnic dinner on the bonnet of the Landcruiser - chicken salad and cheesecake, with Australian red wine. A magnificent display of stars was enjoyed by all. Then we headed off with the spotlight for THE BIRD. Less than 30 minutes later we had a male and female, with the female all set for seduction. After a long look we located a couple of Inland Dotterels crouched close to the ground. So we had all out 'specials' and headed home! On the way back to Deniliquin we were thrilled by the sight of a Barn Owl on a fence, and then flying along with our vehicle. A GREAT DAY.
Monday 26 March - Deniliquin to Kiama
A day of driving today after yesterday's high adventure. We did get good views of Pied Butcherbird along the way, but mainly it was a time for snoozing (not the driver though!). Accommodation in a fine apartment in Kiama, and a Chinese dinner.
Tuesday 27 March - Around Jamberoo, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve and Fitzroy Falls
An early start as the Jamberoo Pass was to be closed at 7am for road works! It proved a good move as we had great views of a male Superb Lyrebird on the way up the pass. An early visit to Barren Grounds yielded fantastic views of Eastern Bristlebird and Beautiful Firetail. So we sat down for breakfast at the Wolery in fine spirits. We searched the Budderoo Plateau after breakfast for Ground Parrot, and hit the jackpot after only 20 minutes. Fleeting glimpses of Southern Emu-wren, but the fresh westerly wind was a problem. A visit to Richard's friends Penny and Larry, who are building their own home in the bush, for morning tea, then on to Robertson Nature Reserve. Here we saw Brown Gerygone and Brown Cuckoo-Dove. Last stop was at Fitzroy Falls for its spectacular views.
Final dinner was at the Silo's Restaurant, the finest in the area - and they did us proud.
Wednesday 28 March - To Sydney Airport and home
A last morning of shopping, and fish and chips at Kiama Harbour. Then it was off in the bus for Sydney - arriving at the airport at 2.30pm. - and the end of the tour.
Richard Jordan 29 April 2001